I knew before that Chiang Mai is an upcoming vibrant city with a huge specialty coffee scene. What I didn’t know before was that there are so many amazing places I wanted to visit.
While I found it difficult to talk with Baristas in Bangkok, the opposite happend in Chiang Mai. The first café I visit, the girl took her time for me to have a coffee chat, be interested in me and share her favorite cafés with me. And after a couple of days in Pai and being over-excited to come back to Chiang Mai I had more amazing coffee chats with Baristas and owners. They shared their stories, their passion, the specialty coffee story of Chiang Mai. After every café visit I walked out with at least three more shops to visit and much more knowledge about roasters and café owners. Of course in some places it was harder to communicate, because of the language but they were always willing and very grateful I came to sip a coffee.
1. A DAY IN CHIANG MAI
When I arrived at this café I fell in love straight away. This cosy small coffee shop just moved next door, because they are placing a new bar. But I don’t think it made any different. All the beautiful furniture, coffee equipment and staff got moved next door. If you’ve been to cafés that felt like a living room, then A Day In Chiang Mai is next level. Every corner, all the furniture could fit in my living room. I look like I belong in this place right? The side table with the Drift magazine, Marshall speaker, dried flowers and double espresso is the perfect coffee table for me. Very minimalistic, Scandinavian design, but cosy. The coffee I sipped was well prepared and the service was really good.
2. AKHA AMA COFFEE
In the middle of old town and I heard they do good in latte art. I walked in on a random afternoon, but wasn’t my best day. I think I was caffeinated enough already, but I went anyway and ordered a cappuccino. It was hard to communicate with the Baristas, but they did prepare a well-made cappu. I was missing a bit of a vibe here at Akha Ama Coffee, so I didn’t stay so long.
3. THE BARISOTEL
Between all the cosy, woody cafés The Barisotel by The Baristro brings you a completely different vibe. All covered in white, minimalistic and clean feeling. Some wooden details, flowers and soft textiles will make the place more cosy. There are three locations of The Baristro. I heard that The Baristro at Ping River is definitely worth the visit. It’s a bit out of town and I didn’t had the time to visit, but when I go back to Chiang Mai I will definitely go. The Baristro is also known for their signature drinks. I’ve sipped a regular nitro cold brew with a cinnamon stick and orange slice, which was a very good combination. Refreshing, but spicy.
4. BREW FACT
This small café is covered in hanging plants, but it’s definitely not camouflaged. You can’t miss this place. It looks so pretty from the outside. And inside by the way! A really easy going place where I enjoyed the easy vibe while sipping an acidic Ethiopian espresso. The barista was chatty and helpful. He explained a bit more about the specialty coffee culture in Chiang Mai, gave me some names of new cafés and of café owners. I walked out of Brew Fact with a happy mood and a new list full of coffee shops to visit in town. After visiting Brew Fact I knew I had to come back to Chiang Mai, because there was no way I could visit them all in those days I had left in town.
5. COTTON TREE
A pretty shop that will make you forget you are in Chiang Mai, because of it’s quiet area. It reminded me a bit of Caffeination Roastery & Bar Pakt in Antwerp and Bonanza in Berlin where you get of the main road, walk into a kind of a green business park. The shop looks really pretty, but it was a bit hard to communicate with the baristas. I sipped a fruity cold brew here and hoped to get some work done, but unfortunately there were no mains and with an empty laptop you can’t do much.
There are several locations in town. Graph Table and Graph Café are located just next to each other in old town and their third shop you find in the hip and happening neighborhood Nimman. I’ve been to the tiny Graph Café where I had nice chat with the friendly barista girl. Graph is famous for their interesting signature drinks. There are so many and they all look so pretty that it is hard to choose. I went to for a safe choice, because I am not so into “strange” coffee combinations. I mostly like my coffee pure and strong. But I really do enjoy a glass of (nitro) cold brew on a hot day. The Lost Garden sounded appealing to me. Nitro cold brew, rosehip syrup and rose leaves on top. Although I am not a big fan of syrups in my coffee, this was pretty tasty. What I love about signature drinks is the whole experience you get. A pretty drink, the preparation and sipping it as long as you can.
I immediately fell in love with this café. When you enter the coffee place you take the stairs up where you first enter the green bean storage. I can’t imagine a better welcome to a specialty coffee shop and roastery. Gateway is part of Graph. Same owner, different project. The place looks bright and spacious. With the bar on one side and a pastry bar on the other side. You definitely need to try their pastries! It’s a very good environment to get some work done while sipping a coffee. I sipped a lovely fruity Thai espresso from a beautiful cup. I also bought some beans here to survive my time in Pai with my aeropresso. I love their roasting profile and bean selection. Went back to Gateway the second time I was in Chiang Mai and I enjoyed a piece of yummy banana bread and a iced matcha latte. Everything tastes good here!
8. LEE ON INK
It maybe wasn’t the best cold brew I ever had. I guess they do mainly filter coffee, because I havent seen an espresso machine. Although they have espresso-based coffees on the menu. But I am sharing this place, because of the experiences. Because sometimes you don’t sip the best coffee, but the service, the atmosphere, the location or whatsoever makes your coffee taste better. It played with your emotions and you forget that the coffee wasn’t perfect. Perfect is overrated anyway, because perfect is different for every human being. Anyway LEE ON INK is a tattoo- and coffee place in one. It’s looks like the owners rebuild their garage and made it to this shop. The place is all white and decorated with some amazing vintage furniture. When sipping a coffee you can feel the that every piece has a story. I ordered a cold brew, just because I love a cold coffee in the afternoon. To cool me down and hit me up with caffeine. Later on when I talk with the barista she tells me it’s not the best cold brew and that it is a bit strong, which is true. She tells me she run out of the good one. I tell her it’s okay. I am enjoying the place and so the coffee. The glass of cold brew got served on a page of an old book. After taking some photos I started staring at the page and I realized I was reading it easily, I realize it’s written in my language. I am sitting here in a garage café/tattoo shop and the paper underneath my coffee is part of a Dutch book. And that’s why I love sharing this place. Because of the little details, the care and the style. Everything breaths design here. I also forget to tell you how fashionable the girl was dressed. She looked like she just walked out of a fashion show sitting front row. I got really inspired by Lee On Ink!
9. MA-CHILL COFFEE
A cosy café just outside old town. I enjoyed the vibe here mainly because of the lovely couple that owns this coffee shop and were behind the bar. It’s nice that this place has a different atmosphere and environment then the common trendy specialty coffee place. Ma-chill Coffee is authentic and has its own character. I’ve enjoyed a well made Thai espresso, made from the Kees van der Westen Mirage.
10. Three Nakhanik
A little shop also just outside old town in the West of Chiang Mai. After Ma-chill Coffee this is also a very unique shop with its own style and character. Heavy industrial materials are combined wth dark woods and lot’s of white and ofcourse a concrete floor and bar. I enjoyed a tasty Ethiopian espresso here, roasted by the owner himself. I was also happy to see some Kenyan beans roasted by the Dutch Friedhats stalled on the counter.